Where did you get that data?

A conclusion is only as good as the data that it is based upon and I am always curious about the data.

One of today’s big “news” topics was a story about how unfit Canadian kids are with the typical headline “Canadian kids continue to get failing fitness grade“.  (I feel like this needs a dramatic sound effect).  Canadian kids are not fit?  How do they know?  What does that mean?

Well … all of the news reports are a result of the release of the “2014 Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth“.  Active Healthy Kids Canada is a charity whose purpose is to increase kids’ activity levels.  I would be surprised if they said anything other than “kids need to be more active”.

You can download a long version of the report card on their site and it includes the data sources that they used.

One example: Do children in various age groups meet the daily recommendation of at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity?  This data came from the 2011-12 Canadian Health Measures Survey from Statistics Canada.  The questions asked included “Over a typical or usual week, on how many days is he physically active for a total of at least 60 minutes per day?” (maximum answer is 4 or more days) and “About how many hours a week does he usually take part in physical activity that makes him out of breath or warmer than usual?”.  The questions and answer choices appear to be carefully written but the problem comes with summarizing the results.  For moderate-to-vigorous exercise, the answers must have come from the second type of question each with one of four classifications (school/home, organized/free play) and then grouped according to an average number of hours per day.  Two full weekend days playing sports does not equal 60+ minutes each day but it would have to be classified that way given the available data.

Other categories for report card marks relied upon completely different data sources including surveys of parents, surveys of students, surveys of schools, clinical exams, and direct measurement of steps per day.  Data was from a few different years.

Comparisons were  then made to 14 other countries ranging from Australia and Ireland to Mozambique and Nigeria.  I can only assume that these countries also use a wide range of data sources of varying quality.

TL;DR: Statements on report card may not be 100% accurate.


And don’t even get me started on that headline.  None of the variables in this report actually measured fitness.  None of them.

Also, big surprise, non-government organizations promoting physical activity received an A-!  Are those the same groups that support Active Healthy Kids Canada and use this report card to promote their agendas?  How convenient.


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